WEB FIRST: Class 4A playoffs – 4th quarter rally lifts Valencia over Piedra Vista

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TOME – Time and again Friday night, the No. 7 Valencia Jaguars made big plays to keep pace with the No. 10 Piedra Vista Panthers from Farmington

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: TYLER McCLARRAN of Valencia High school breaks out on his way to a long touchdown run during the Jaguars playoff win over Piedra Vista Friday night.

At the very end of the Jags’ wild Class 4A football playoff game at Valencia High School, those game-changers lifted VHS to a dramatic 47-38 victory over the Panthers. [subscriber content]

Valencia (7-4) scored 26 points during a wild fourth quarter to stun the Panthers in the first round of the Class 4A football playoffs.

The Jaguars now travel to Farmington High School next week to play the No. 2 seed Scorpions. Valencia faced the Scorps, who are currently 9-1, at home in week five, and fell 33-12 at home.

Senior running back Tyler McClarran scored three of his four touchdowns in the fourth quarter – one off a 96-yard punt return and another on a 3-yard scoring run with 1:35 left in the fourth quarter – to give the Jags a 41-38 lead.

“I was going to let the ball bounce into the end zone,” McClarran said of his punt return for a touchdown. “But once I saw it bounce back it clcked in my mind I didn’t want it to be at the 3- or 4-yard line. So I picked it up and tried to get as much yardage as I could. Once I did that holes opened up and everybody executed.”

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: VALENCIA DEFENDERS Orlando Lucero (15) and Gavin Nagy (86) tackle Piedra Vista quarterback Isaiah Valdez during the Jaguars' 47-38 playoff win Friday night.

VHS then completed the comeback with 47 seconds left in regulation when senior defensive back Joe Heneghan stepped in front of a fourth down pass from Panthers senior quarterback Isaiah Valdez and returned it 78-yards for the final touchdown of the game.

“All day,” Heneghan excitedly explained after the game. “I saw them try to hit the out (route) and made a play. Perfect call and perfect coverage.”

It was a dramatic turnaround for Valencia, which Piedra Vista trailed 24-14 at halftime after a lackluster first half that saw the Jaguars give up as many big plays as they made.

The Panthers assumed that lead on the strength of 17 second quarter points, including a pair of touchdown passes by Valdez.

Senior Beau Crafton, who scored a pair of touchdowns for Piedra Vista in the game, including a 90-yard kick off return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, started the big play parade with a 41-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

Valencia countered on the next play from scrimmage when junior quarterback Garrett Gibson kept the ball on an option play and ran 60 yards down the sideline to tie the game 7-7.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: VALENCIA HIGH running back Nate Nash runs a counter play Friday night against Piedra Vista in the Jags 47-38 win at Valencia High School.

The two teams settled into a defensive struggle for much of the rest of the half, broken by a 31-yard Panther field goal with 4:34 left in the half. VHS briefly took the lead at 14-10 on a 73-yard touchown run by McClarran. But Valdez found an open receiver on the next play for the Panthers for a 64-yard touchdown strike and Piedra Vista took back the lad 17-14.

VHS fumbled the ball away on the next play from scrimmage and the Panthers capitalized five plays later when Valdez scored on a quarterback keeper and Piedra Vista took a 24-14 lead.

After a three-and-out by Valencia to start the third quarter, Crafton returned a punt 81 yards for a Panther touchdown and it appeared that the game would devolve into a rout.

But the Jags mounted a 60-yard, 13-play drive that finished with a nine-yard pass from Gibson to McClarran to bring VHS to within 31-21.

Neither team was able to move the ball on their next two possessions. But after a missed field goal attempt by the Panthers, Marcos Griego broke away for a 55-yard touchdown to pull VHS to 31-28 with 10:05 left in regulation.

Needing a score in the fourth, VHS drove 60 yards on 16-plays, including a decisive hook-and-ladder play on a pass from Gibson to senior Nate Nash, who then tossed the ball to McClarran fo a 16-yard play that earned the Jags a critical first down with 2:38 left in the game. Three plays later, VHS scored the game winning touchdown.

“Coach opened up the playbook and let me go to the air,” Gibson said. “The passing game really came through for us tonight.”

Coach Kevin Jolley said his team showed a lot of character in mounting its fourth quarter comeback.

“Once we had the punt return and took the lead, I think they knew and said ‘We can do this,’” Jolley said. “Nobody gave up. We didn’t see any heads down or sitting down. That was good. It was good to see us rise to that challenge and come down and score again.” [/subscriber content]